Children in schools are the most vulnerable during an earthquake disaster

Children in schools are the most vulnerable during an earthquake disaster.
Children in schools are the most vulnerable during an earthquake disaster.

If not all, at least educated lots in Jammu and Kashmir are well aware of the fact that geographically the state is located in the highest seismic zone five which means major earthquakes can occur here anytime. So, the first response towards preparedness is expected from the government which till date has been cold enough to freeze implementations that is missing on ground. There is a need to shift it from response and relief to prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

It is observed that among all the public facilities children in schools are the most vulnerable during an earthquake disaster. Also irrespective of public or privately managed schools or be it rural or urban based educational institutions, the building are hardly designed to be resistant to earthquake impacts. During 2001 Gujarat earthquake more than twenty thousand school rooms were destroyed and thousands of kids lost their life. While, in 2005 Kashmir over 200 students and teachers died in the collapse of only one school building.

While it is an important issue to enhance the earthquake resistance capacity of school facilities to ensure the safety of students, preparedness measures during emergency evacuations at the time of earthquake occurrence is equally important.

The state government, particularly ministry of education has to check and ensure the school buildings are safe enough to keep kids. The focus should be on important aspects of building form, include the building plan, internal partitions, size and location of openings in internal and external walls. It is usually said that openings in walls are a source of weakness and tend to change the behavior of the wall and consequently the building itself. Past earthquakes have revealed a strong effect of the size and the position of the openings on the earthquake-resistance of masonry as well as RC framed buildings. Construction material and technology affect the seismic performance of a building. The floor height and number of storeys should be limited according to the structural system and construction materials.

All that is needed is a policy and legal institutional framework for safe and earthquake resilient educational institutions in the state.  All new schools/educational institutions should mandatorily have earthquake resilience buildings. Ministry of education should give approval to the schools only if disaster resilience certification is provided. Currently operating educational institution needs to be revisited to include disaster resilience audit.

Besides policy and legal framework, courses on disaster management have to be introduced in curriculum at school and university levels to raise awareness among students. Mock drill exercises could also prove useful to ensure quick response. Issuance of guidelines for earthquake-resistance school building could be the first step to set ball of preparedness rolling.

Recent calamity caused by an earthquake (measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale) that shook the Chenab valley on 1 May 2013 took away few lives and left tens of hundreds injured. Besides, it a wall of Government Primary School Pootinag of Kishtwar collapsed leading to injuries to four students and one teacher. One student was injured when the wall of Government Higher Secondary school Chatroo collapsed. At least 27 children received minor injuries at Higher Secondary School Gandoh, Higher Secondary School Sinowa and Higher Secondary School Kilotran.

While, stressing on prevention, mitigation and preparedness for the disasters it is to be kept in mind that these measures will come at a cost however, as old proverb goes: switch at a time saves nine, explains it all. Schools damaged beyond repairs or unsafe require a level of reinvestment many times higher than the initial small incremental cost of building safely. In the present times finances is not a problem, expenditures on reinforcement of school building can be shared by the government as to ensure safety of students studying in the schools. Top elected officials of the state especially in the ministry of education should give a thought to it at least for the safety of thousands of children and come out with an institutional legal framework.


J&K Education Profile

Number of  Primary Schools


Number of  Upper Primary Schools


Number of  High Schools


Number of  Higher Secondary Schools


Number of Sainik Schools


District Institute of Education (DIETs)


State Institute of Education (SIEs)


Number of KGBVs




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